Roy Carroll's Linfield switch ensures Irish League will once again be represented at a major finals
Euro 2016 was set to be the first time that Northern Ireland named a squad for a major tournament without an Irish League player in it.
Felix Healy’s appearance, as a Coleraine player, against Honduras in 1982 is still the only one made by anyone from Northern Ireland’s domestic league on a big international stage.
Now that is all about to change.
Roy Carroll will go to France with Michael O’Neill’s squad as a Linfield player.
The 38-year-old Northern Ireland goalkeeper has signed a one-year contract with the Blues to join up with his former international colleague David Healy.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed last November that Carroll was on his way home, with Healy keen on signing him (right) — and now he has got his man.
Carroll won’t play for Linfield until after the tournament, but as his deal with the Blues starts on June 1, the Fermanagh man will officially be a Linfield player when Northern Ireland take the field to face Poland on Sunday, June 12 in their opening group game at Euro 2016.
His Blues debut could come just over a fortnight later. If Northern Ireland are eliminated in the group stages they will head home after meeting World champions Germany in Paris on Tuesday, June 21 and Linfield will be in action in the first round of Europa League qualifying a week later.
“He’s (Carroll) obviously a player I know very well and he will bring with him considerable experience which will be of enormous benefit to the goalkeepers in our squad and indeed our entire squad,” said Healy.
“I’m looking forward to working with him once his international commitments are concluded in the coming weeks.”
Carroll’s arrival at Windsor Park leaves Ross Glendinning’s future at the club up in the air.
Despite playing 46 games during the season, the 23-year-old was axed for the Irish Cup final in favour of Gareth Deane.
Carroll, who will turn 39 in September, was released by Notts County last week after two seasons with the club.
A return to Northern Ireland was always on Carroll’s agenda once he bought a house in his native Fermanagh last summer.
His family have been living there for the last year while he regularly travelled home during time off from the club.
Billy Bingham selected four Irish League players — Glentoran pair Jim Cleary and Johnny Jameson, Linfield goalkeeper George Dunlop and Healy — to travel to Spain for the 1982 World Cup finals.
Four years later, Mark Caughey of Linfield — and Jim Platt, who had returned home to first manage Ballymena United and then Coleraine, represented the Irish League in Mexico.
Back in 1958, Glenavon goalkeeper Roy Rea, Linfield’s Tommy Hamill and Bobby Trainor of Coleraine were named in the Northern Ireland World Cup squad for Sweden, but the IFA decided to take only 18 players rather than the permitted 22 and they ended up staying at home.
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